Maybole Castle
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Possibly one of the oldest photographs of the town. Taken around 1860 it shows the Castle and the Old Smithy on the corner of New Yards and Barns Road, formerly called Castle Brae.  This picture was taken before the new road (St. Cuthbert's Road) was formed The carriage belonged to, a mortician, Mr. Thomson.


This image was contributed by Heather Muir and makes a great desktop background. Click on one of the sizes below and once the photo is open in your browser, right click and set as background or wallpaper. 
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Shown below are some of the many sketches and photos of Maybole Castle on the website.

Maybole Castle c. 1838

Castle and Tolbooth

Maybole Castle

Watch the snow fall!

More about Maybole Castle from  Maybole, Carrick's Capital by James T. Gray

The Castle is the oldest inhabited house in the town having been built about the middle of the sixteenth century (no exact date can be given but it is believed to be around 1560). It was the town house of the Earls of Cassillis who spent most of the winter months in Maybole in those days and was the largest and finest of the twenty-eight lairds’ houses which were written about by Abercrummie in 1686.

It was built in the style of a typical Scottish castle, with square tower and round turrets, and strong enough to protect its occupants from unfriendly neighbours, of whom there were many at that time. Originally it stood across the bottom of the High Street with the gates to the courtyard facing up the street and with a great part of it on the site now occupied by the Post Office. The main door was originally at the side of the square tower which faced up the High Street.

 The main hall was above vaulted cellars which still remain and above the hall were the sleeping apartments. The retainers’ quarters were on the other side of the gateway which gave entrance into the castle yard which was built round the well now, locally known as "The Pump". The buildings were L shaped with the base forming the part still in existence and the longer side built where the Post Office and Public Library now stand and the part now demolished housed the servants, grooms, smiths, and other persons necessary for the service of a nobleman in the sixteenth century. The tower is capped by a lovely little oriel window looking up the High Street (described by McGibbon and Ross in their books on Scottish Castles as "a rare specimen"), with heads carved round it which local people wrongly believe represent the heads of Johnnie Faa and his gypsies. The corbels to the roof of the little room at the top of the tower (known as the Countess’s Room) are carved with male and female heads and symbols of fertility.

A square recess about fifteen feet from the base of the tower originally held a stone carved with arms of the Cassillis family. The walls are extremely thick (in some places about seven feet) and it must have originally been a safe retreat in troublesome times when the Earls could live in it, with their own men around them in the small township clustered on the hillside below it. It was from Maybole Castle that the Earl of Cassillis and his men sallied forth to the fight at Ladycross in December, 1601, when young Bargany. was killed in the bitter feud between the Cassillis and Bargany families. Locally there is an old tale of the Countess of Cassillis being imprisoned in the "Countess’s Room" at the top of the tower, after she had allegedly eloped with Johnnie Faa, King of the Gypsies, but while the story is a delightful one, facts disprove it.

As years passed the Earls spent less and less of their time in Maybole, and gradually the old Castle fell into a state of disrepair and it became practically abandoned except for a few old retainers who lived in some of the outbuildings. In 1805 the Earl of Cassillis agreed with the town council that the part sited where the Post Office stands could be demolished to allow a road to be formed from the foot of the High Street to Duncanland Toll at the bottom of Redbrae. When the old buildings were removed the Earl decided to repair the old Castle and in 1812 reroofed it and built the additions which are now the Marquess of Ailsa’s Estate Offices and the living rooms above, also the Dining Room and new kitchen premises. The gardens and park bad walls erected round them and from 1812 the Castle has remained as it is now and it has been the home of Lord Ailsa’s Estate Factors from then until the present day.

 In 1919 fire broke out in it and part of the roof was destroyed and had to be repaired. It has a commanding position at the bottom of the High Street and makes an attractive entry to the town from the Ayr Road and when the Library (1905), Post Office (1913) and the building at the head of the Kirkwynd (1894) were erected the builders harmonised the new buildings with the old Castle by making crow stepped gables, etc., and this little corner of Maybole has a dignity which can compare with any part of any town in Scotland.

In olden days another Castle stood at the top of the High Street, facing down the street to Maybole Castle, and the street was closed at both top and bottom of the hill by these two buildings which stood, like watch-dogs, over the Minniebolers as they thronged the booths set up in the High Street at the quarterly fairs or gathered to listen to proclamations from the drummer on the steps of the Town Cross. This building was originally the town house of the Lairds of Blairquhan and again was built in the usual style of Scottish castles with strong walls, a tower, and turrets. It is not known when it was originally built but it is believed to be older than the Castle. The building was quite large and occupied part of the site now occupied by Cameron’s Garage and the Royal Bank. About the end of the seventeenth century it was formed into the Court House and Tolbooth for the town, when a great part of the building was removed, and only the tower, part of the Lesser Town Hall, and a square building with a raked crow stepped gable were left. 

There are many old prints showing this building in the early nineteenth century and they give a good picture of the Town’s jail and Council House and the Seal of the Burgh is a representation of the old Tolbooth. The prison cells were under the Court Room and they must have housed many prisoners in their time, as the Courts of Carrick met there and dealt out justice to all accused of every type of crime from poaching to murder. When the Court Room was not in use for the meetings of the Councillors it was let out as a "Dancing Room" and to actors to present their plays and many of the prisoners in the cells below must have had a few sleepless nights when the fiddlers played reels for the dancers above them. The old "jouggs" for the necks of prisoners used to hang above the door at the bottom of the tower and the "stocks" for their feet lay in a room at the top of the tower, but the "jouggs" went amissing about the end of the last century, and the "stocks", although still in existence in the 1930s, have also been lost.


Here are drawings of Maybole Castle. Click on the images to view full size.

From Rev. R Lawson's'
 Book. See text below.

Maybole Castle 1888

Maybole Castle
by Billings

Sketch by
Anne McFarlane

Maybole Castle has been offered to local community groups in Maybole by the trustees of Cassillis Estate. Recently, a presentation was made Councillor Andy Hill, leader of South Ayrshire Council, Cathy Jamieson MSP, Sandra Osborne MP, Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire, local voluntary groups and potential funders. The presentation was made by David Kiltie, chairman of May-Tag Ltd and Maybole Community Council, and Peter Walker, of Maybole Resource Centre, who said that the estate trustees are willing to pass Maybole Castle to the community, provided a partnership company involving the local community council, historical society, community association, business association and May-Tag Ltd can be formed. more

News Article from the Ayrshire Post July 30th 2004The Historical Society has been very active in promoting Maybole Castle since May-Tag moved out and Dave said, “The Castle goes from strength to strength and we have a very good relationship with the factor and through him the Estate and Trustee. “We are putting together proposals and plans for opening the castle regularly to the public next year; improving and expanding the display material in the castle; and the future of the castle as a heritage centre. He continued, “The latest suggestion from the trustees and factor is that the Factor's office will be relocated, all the archives moved to Ayrshire Archives Centre for digitisation and return to Maybole in digitised form and that a "North Carrick Heritage Trust" in some name or form will take over he running of the whole Castle and grounds.”


“We have been in contact with all the relevant bodies,” he added, “and are now awaiting their responses as to exactly how the ‘Heritage Trust’ should and can proceed. With the new proposals for Charitable Bodies regulations it is essential we get this right and it has already been suggested that we might even be used as a pilot case to show how it can be done properly. Things are proceeding along the proper, if somewhat slower, lines and we know that when we get things together it will be for a secure and prosperous future for the Castle and the town.”


The Society is delighted at the number of visitors to the castle even if it holds them back from some of the work needing to be done! Dave said, “Visitor numbers continue to surprise us every time we open the Castle. So much so, that all the routine work we were hoping to do last Saturday such as hovering, washing windows, sweeping floors, moving redundant furniture, etc went completely by the board.” He went on, “Our very good core of volunteer guides work extremely well but we will be appealing for one or two more to cover for illnesses and holidays etc, and to help us next year when on two or three occasions we hope to have the Castle open over a straight three day period on special bank holiday weekends and at Doors Open Day.” The first part of a photographic exhibition is now on the walls in the main room in the castle and the rest should be up and ready by August 8 for the next opening.


David Hunter has given the Society two banners - those for Kennedy of Cassillis and Kennedy of Bargany - that he used to use on his re-enactment forays, and he has also given them a number of Kennedy ancestry charts that will provide enough material to produce a full Kennedy room with displays.  Dave Killicoat said that Gordon Cockburn, of the Gallery in the High Street, has proved to be a great friend to the Historical Society “We now have four of his original paintings of Maybole hanging in the dining room,” he commented, “and he has given us a number of original black and white as well as colour photographs of the boot and shoemaking trade in Maybole which, together with one or two from Isabel Seymour's collection, will allow us to fill another room with a very good display on Maybole's major contribution to industrial heritage in Britain.”


The Society now has thirty very comfortable chairs in the Castle so it can cope with smaller meetings if required and very soon they should have sufficient resources to comfortably seat fifty-five in the main room or thirty in the dining room or have the main room seated and a buffet or similar in the dining room. The Historical Society, as part of Maybole Castle, is now a member of the Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Forum and the hope is that the castle will soon be part of the Ayrshire & Arran Visitors Attractions Association.

Maybole High Street was closed Sunday the 24th of August 2008 while essential repairs were carried out to Maybole Castle. Rarely has the road been so quiet.  While a cherry picker was used for repairs to the castle an opportunity to take a few photos was not lost. More photos and castle details American visitor arrived with a small group and asked if he could come in. He was of course warmly greeted and we offered to show him round the Castle. However he said he realised he had arrived late and was actually a wee bit more interested in his family history than the Castle so he would rather see if we could help him in that way first. ...You can imagine my surprise when he commented on this in a foreign tongue which he then explained to me was Iroquois (American Indian) as he too was a full blooded Indian. Thomas had seen the Maybole website but had never thought that it would contain a wealth of information including his own family history and details of other contacts, but had gone immediately from the home page to the Castle Opening times and decided to visit!  full story and photos

Maybole Castle. From the book - Places of Interest about Maybole with Sketches of Persons of Interest"  by Rev. R. Lawson. Published 1891. 

The Castle of Maybole was formerly the town house of the Earls of Cassillis, and formed by far the finest specimen of the twenty-eight gentlemen's houses which once adorned our town. The country residences of the Cassillis lords were various. The first was Dunnure on the sea shore, the next was Cassillis House on the Doon, the present is Culzean on the sea shore again. Judging from its architecture, Maybole Castle was built probably about the year 1560, although the exact date is not known. The square tower or keep, which formed its first nucleus, may easily be distinguished from more recent additions by the thickness of its walls (four feet), and the antique character of its architecture. The main entrance originally looked up High Street, and stood immediately beneath the square recess in the wall (seen in the engraving) where the coat of arms was formerly displayed.

The additions that have been made to the castle in recent times have been executed with good taste, and in admirable keeping. Among the items to be observed are the beautiful little oriel window looking up the street, with its quaintly ornamented gable, the oddly carved chimney heads, the droll headings of the small windows, like a Scotch "mutch" on an old face, and the grandly massive front with its ancient turrets. Robert Chambers says of it that "a finer, more sufficient, and more entire house of its kind has never fallen under the notice of the present writer,"--nor, I may add, of this still more recent writer.

Many a scene of sturt and strife has the old castle witnessed in its day. From it, in December, 1601, issued the men who waylaid and killed the Laird of Bargany at Duneane (afterwards to be described). But the weirdest story that attaches to the old building is connected with the Countess's Room in the top storey, lighted by the oriel window aforesaid. The story itself will be more fully told in connection with Cassillis House, and here it may be sufficient to allude to it in verse--

The ladye o' Cassillis sits weeping alane,
  In her room in the auld castle high.
And thinks o'the bricht happy days that were hers.
  But noo are for ever gane by,
When she roamed through the woods and the fields sae green
  That sweep round the bonnie Doon,
When maidens and vassals were a'at her beck,
  And the homage o' Mayhole toon.

But the glamour o' wanton love cast its spell
  Over this high-born ladye,

And she left her hoose and her bairns and  a'
  To gang wi' a gypsy laddie.
And here is the pitfu' end o' it, a'--
  Her lover hanged on the Dule tree,
While she is confined in this lanesome tower,
  Her life-lang weird to dree.

0, easy it is to tak' a wrang step,
  And hard in the richt to abide,
Bat wha shall undo the thing that is dune,
  When ance it has left oor side?
Nae use for us then to sab and lament,
  We maun reap as we've sawn----nae doot,
It's easy to drap idle stanes in the well,
  But wha's to tak' them oot?

The quaint oriel window still looks np the street,
  And we fancy that sad face we see,
Lamenting for aye that ae fause step
  Which wrocht a' her misery.
And this is the warning the auld story tells
  To ilka ane that gangs by-
"The glamour o' sin blins the een o' the best,
  And steals a' oor innocent joy."


Below are a few photos of the inside of Maybole Castle
Click on the images to view them full size.
Basement hallway Basement storage room Reception Desk Training Room


A dramatic day in Maybole as smoke billows from the historic castle. And townspeople gather in the High Street to watch the battle to save the building. Local history expert Davie Hunter says the fire occurred in 1919, when only very basic fire-fighting gear was at hand in the town. But fortunately damage was limited to the roof, and this was subsequently repaired. Charred timbers from the blaze can still be seen in the roof space though, says Davie. Click here or on the picture for a large image. Click here for the complete original article from the Post.


Maybole Castle was the headquarters of May-Tag Ltd, which was founded by the Community Council in 1986 as a training company to combat local unemployment. Today the company employs full-time and part-time employees as well as offering volunteering opportunities to locals to help train people in core work skills. May-Tag moved to another location on High Street in 2004.


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